GARY | Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest recently welcomed its largest class of third-year medical students since expanding from a two-year to a four-year program.
In June, the 12 students were assigned to local hospitals to begin their rotations in subspecialties. Ten of the students have region roots.
Gary native Cicely Moreno, 26, said she likes the hands-on approach offered through the IUN program.
Being a doctor was not a goal as she grew up in Northwest Indiana, attending Andrean High School before transferring to West Side.
"I wanted to be a nurse," she said.
After accepting a scholarship to IUN, she studied pre-med and took six years to complete her undergraduate work because she became a single mother during that time.
Moreno transferred downstate for the start of her medical school education, thinking she would have more opportunities in Indianapolis.
"We were given a little assignment in our first year, to go to a high school in Indianapolis," she said. "The school was for the poor and underserved. I felt really drawn to that."
She surprised the students when she told them she was raised in Gary. They didn't know it was possible for someone from rough circumstances to pursue a job in medicine, Moreno said.
Moreno wants to work in family practice when she graduates, working in underserved areas. She likes the idea of developing longtime relationships with patients.
Patrick Bankston, associate dean and director of the Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest, said Moreno is the type of student the program wants – someone who wants to stay local and serve the needs of Northwest Indiana after completing a residency.
Medical students often think studying in a large city, such as Indianapolis, will bring them more experience. Actually, students at the Gary campus report doing more hands-on work because there is less competition for patients, Bankston said.
All IU medical students must help deliver at least three babies during their time in the ob/gyn subspecialty. One student attending the Gary campus and working locally helped deliver 23 last year, Bankston said.
Dan Pop, of Highland, said one of the best things about the program is the one-on-one interaction with so many patients.
"In Indianapolis, you're competing to interact with one patient down there, because it's a big group (of students)," Pop said.
The Highland High School graduate started his rotation in internal medicine at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Hammond, visiting the 15 to 20 patients on rounds with the doctor.
"Being able to work closely (with patients) gives you an education you can't teach," he said.
Pop, whose undergraduate work was at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, said he is pretty set on a career in emergency medicine, but his mind is open to options.
He said he wants to spread the word about the opportunities at the Gary campus.
"It hasn't been a cut-throat experience," he said. "At the end of the day, you should be doing it for the patients, instead of competing for patients' attention."